The second federal trial of a DePuy Pinnacle hip lawsuit concluded today in Texas, after A federal jury awarded more than $500 million to a group of plaintiffs fitted with the all-metal devices. According to Bloomberg News, jurors hearing the case concluded that Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopaedics unit knew the implants were defective, but concealed that information from doctors and patients.
Johnson & Johnson and DePuy face thousands of similar product liability claims over the metal-on-metal version of the Pinnacle hip replacement product. The just-concluded trial was part of a multidistrict litigation currently underway in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, that includes more than 8,000 such claims. The case involved five plaintiffs who argued that toxic metal debris shed from their implants resulted in tissue death, bone erosion, high levels of metal in their blood, and premature device failure.
According to Reuters, the nine-member jury deliberated for one week before awarding the plaintiffs about $140 million in total compensatory damages and about $360 million in punitive damages.
The trial was the second convened in the federal DePuy Pinnacle litigation. The first concluded in October 2014 with a verdict for the defense. As bellwether trials, both were expected to provide some insight into how juries might decide similar Pinnacle hip cases.
Johnson & Johnson has promised to appeal this latest verdict. In a statement to Bloomberg News, a spokesperson maintained that the company “acted appropriately and responsibly in the design and testing” of the Pinnacle devices.
Metal-on-metal hip replacements were supposed to be more durable than those constructed of other materials. But in 2011, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) began to investigate the devices, amid concerns that the implants could shed dangerous amounts of metal debris, leading to premature device failure and other serious complications. In January 2013, the FDA announced that its review had, in fact, suggested that all-metal hips were associated with higher rates of early failure compared to other configurations.
In May of 2013, DePuy Orthopaedics announced that it would phase out metal-on-metal hip implants, including the device named in Pinnacle hip lawsuits. According to The New York Times, the company cited slowing sales, as well as the FDA’s actions in regard to all-metal implants, as factors in its decision.